You Can’t Be Trusted To Judge Your Own Art

I have been, and will probably always be my own worst critic. I default to thinking everything I do sucks. My art, my writing, my face, and whatever else I can think of. My inner critic says it all blows. My inner critic is an asshole, and it should not be trusted. If you have an asshole inner critic too, then you my friend cannot be trusted to judge your own art. Or anything else you create for that matter.

I can be somewhat objective and evaluate the technical aspects of my art. I can tell you if I am lacking negative space and balance. I can tell you when I need more contrast or need to rework different forms. This is basic critiquing and every artist should learn how to recognize and manipulate design principles. What we cannot be trusted to do is judge the objective value of our work.

Is it good enough to show the world? Is it good enough to sell? Is it straight garbage to add to the dumpster fire of my life? Things like that. Most of the time, the judgment is wrong and biased.

I have created work that I hated, and it sold immediately. I have created work that I thought was amazing, and it sits in my studio for years. I’ve learned that the accuracy of my judgments needs improvement–but it’s been easier to just stop trying to judge my work at all.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

When I was writing my novel a couple of months ago, I kept hearing this nagging voice in my head that was all like “You’ve never written a novel. You will not be good at this. This book will be terrible. Who are you to think you can do this?” Before I accepted I was an artist, that voice said the same thing about my art.

Happily, I ignored that voice and continued writing (I’m working through third draft edits at the moment. Jury is still out on whether or not this thing does in fact suck major donkey balls–but that’s not my biggest concern.) While I was taking a break from writing, I googled “How to know if you suck at writing” and came across a video explaining the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

“The Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. Essentially, low ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognize their own incompetence. The combination of poor self-awareness and low cognitive ability leads them to overestimate their own capabilities.” -Verywellmind

This filled me with hope. If I believe I am amazing at what I am doing, then that might actually mean I am worse than I think–so if I believe I suck, does that mean I am actually better than I think? Maybe. I might just have the ability to recognize my own incompetence and lack of skill. I might not be good–but I have the power to recognize that and try to get better.

You have to believe you suck just enough to keep you moving forward, but not suck so much that it paralyzes you.

Judgment Paralysis:

Past me would judge my work so harshly that 1) I didn’t show it to the world and 2) I let myself get so discouraged that I stopped creating. (I did this over and over again with writing most of all, but art as well.)

If you do either, then you have work to do. Dial back the judgment. Your internal critic needs to be quieted.

Grow while recognizing weaknesses:

Current me knows that my art isn’t the greatest, my writing could definitely still use a lot of work, and perfection is unattainable, but growth is always a good goal.

You’re not going to be perfect. You’re not going to be the best. Just make art and keep moving forward.

F**K It. Put it out into the world.

Every day I work on art, I still think 75% of the time “Well, this is garbage.” But I still finish the work and put it on social media and in my online store.

I have trained myself to not give shit if my work is good or bad. I make art that I enjoy. I put it into the world. Then I go make more art. I repeat that cycle and hope some of it sells. When I get tired of art, I go write. I don’t think I am great at writing, but I keep doing it. Maybe I am the worst, but that doesn’t matter, because I’ll only get better at what I do the more I do it.

Make the art. Put it out into the world. Let everyone else decide its value. But, if they do think it sucks, f**k ’em, because the value of art is subjective. Really, nobody can be trusted to judge your art objectively, but especially not you.

In summary:

Don’t judge your work. Recognize your weaknesses, and keep practicing. If you do judge your work, don’t let that stop you from creating or putting it out into the world. And if you think you’re the best f***ing artist that ever existed, then you probably do suck at what you do, but high five for being confident! Keep putting that art into the world!

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

***

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Uninspired Work is Still Important Work

A few weeks ago, I saw a quote that sort of stuck in my head. I say “sort of,” because I don’t remember who said it and I don’t remember the exact wording. This always happens to me. I will misquote movie lines even after watching it a hundred times. I get the gist and my brain fills in the rest. Anyway, this quote said something about how social media is bad because it is forcing artists to create uninspired work in order to keep up with the fast paced need for more and more content. Artists no longer spend months or years on a project, because they have to churn out new content as often as multiple times a day.

When I read it, I agreed. “You’re right, stranger on the internet that I will forget about in 4 seconds, because social media has shortened my attention span!” *continues scrolling to distract from existential dread*

I forgot about the quote until yesterday, and was suddenly like “Hey! That person was wrong!” Or course, the social media post I saw was long gone, so I couldn’t go write a strongly worded comment–which I wouldn’t do anyway, because I avoid conflict–but I can scream into the internet void via my blog! So here I am.

What is uninspired work?

You know that feeling in your chest when you have this beautiful connection with your muse? You feel all light and airy, and you want to immediately gush some sort of magical idea onto a canvas, sketchbook, or whatever surface you can, because a creative power is surging through you? And suddenly, this new twist on your creativity is birthed into the world.

Yeah, uninspired work is not that.

Uninspired work is cliché, overdone, or unoriginal. Uninspired work is muscle memory or mimicry. It’s going through the motions. It’s showing up when you feel empty and squeezing some semblance of a creative product from the depths of your being. What flows through you when inspired, comes out like a dusty wheeze when you’re uninspired. It’s easy to think that social media begs for uninspired work, because it begs for content regardless of your state of inspiration. Artists are forced to create when they have nothing new or meaningful to say.

This can lead creative people to sacrifice quality for quantity when it comes to content, but this isn’t necessarily true for everyone nor is it inherently detrimental to creative end products. In fact, I think social media can lead to a wellspring of creativity if leveraged and I think that uninspired work is the most important work you can put yourself through.

A demand for content can keep an artist focused.

Even without social media, you shouldn’t wait for inspiration to hit you before you work on your craft. If you are serious about whatever form your creativity takes, then you should be exercising your skills often. Though, like any form of exercise, it’s easy to say “I don’t feel like it today. I’ll do it tomorrow instead.” How many “todays” have been wasted while waiting for tomorrow’s inspiration? I’ve wasted many.

The constant demand for content on social media keeps me accountable as a creator. I know that if I want to sell art, I need to grow my following. If I want to grow my following, I need to post often. If I am going to post often, then I need to create more art and more content. If I create more art, then I’ll have more to sell, and the cycle continues.

Inspired or uninspired, I make art and social content. Products from either state of creation don’t appear any more or less valuable, and I bet you can’t tell what art was created in either state if you looked at my Instagram.

A demand for more content can force an artist to to tell a bigger story about their creativity.

Anytime I work with my consulting clients during Instagram Assessments, I can hear the panic on the other end of the phone when I tell them they should be posting on social media every day.

“But I don’t have enough art for that!” They say.

And I try to soothe them with this: You don’t need to post a new piece of art every day. You need to post new content every day. There is a huge difference.

Social media isn’t demanding that you create new art from start to finish every day. If you are rushing your creative process, then you need to make adjustments. You need to make your art on the timeline it demands. Some artists create quick work that comes together in minutes, some create insanely detailed work that requires months of dedicated time. Do what your art demands, but expand your idea of what counts as social media content while you honor your creative process.

Create cheap content. Not cheap art.

When I say create cheap content, it’s not about creating something that has little value. It’s about creating content that doesn’t sap your energy. Be energetically thrifty on social media. Like I said before, you don’t need to create new art every day just to post on social media, but you can capture small parts of your process as you work.

A video of a brush stroke, a portrait of you next to your art, your studio space, your art supplies, your messy hands, your spilled paint water. What tells your story as a creator? Your social media posts are not just for your art. Your posts are for your entire story and life as an artist. Zoom out and capture the details of you, your process, and your inspiration. When you are forced to create more content, your creativity can flourish as you see your entire artistic life as a work of art.

Capture all of it. Show us who you are, why you create, and why we should care about your art when you finally have an end product to show and sell.

Showing up can shake inspiration loose.

I can’t tell you how many times I have entered my studio without a shred of inspiration in me and walked out hours later with something completely new and inspiring laid out on my work tables. If I didn’t need to create in order to produce content to post and sell, then I’d easily shirk my creative responsibilities and go eat ice cream or watch TV. Or both, more likely, while I wait for inspiration to hit me.

Inspiration is a strange thing. You can’t predict when it will hit, but you can make sure to show up and be close to your medium when it happens. Almost every time I create from an uninspired place, I start to see my art supplies in different ways. My brain hates the discomfort of being forced to sit with my creativity when it isn’t flowing, and so it actually becomes more creative as it tries to get rid of the discomfort.

When I am tired of what I’ve been doing in the studio, I do different things to excite my brain. I look at old work from the past and try to combine it with new stuff. I pick up a tool I haven’t used in awhile. I grab a color that normally doesn’t speak to me. Even if I change what I did before in just one small way, I can still experience creative growth.

A lack of inspiration forces me to shake inspiration loose to end the discomfort I feel. This wouldn’t happen without being forced to sit in my studio and create in order to feed the social media monster.

***

Your work won’t always be inspired. Your work won’t always feel new and fresh. Sometimes you will hit a wall and get tired of your creations, but if you keep moving forward, you will grow. If you create for the sake of producing content and never actually feel inspired, you will still grow creatively. Uninspired work is important work. It’s where you sit in discomfort and struggle through the process, and it’s where you make the most progress. Social media can lead you to create art that is inspired in ways that can surprise you.

So, sorry random person on the internet whose quote loosely stuck into my brain. You weren’t entirely accurate!

***

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

P.S. You know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

2021 Artist Tips for Instagram Growth

It’s been a bit since I’ve shared information on how to grow your Instagram following. If you’ve been following my blog or my Instagram account since I began my full time art business in 2016, you know I was a little obsessed with organic growth. My account gained its first 20k followers in three months through sharing videos, and it continued to grow steadily to 125k over two years. This was all organic. I didn’t pay for promotions or cut corners. Hard work pays off.

Annnnnd then my following stopped growing. Because 1) The app changed, 2) I dipped back into my depression and couldn’t focus on finding a new approach to IG (I’m not shy about sharing mental health struggles.), 3) I went through a breakup and moved across the country, and 4) 2020 in general happened. What a year! (lol)

Now, I’m back with good news! Not only have things improved with my mental health (Yay for that!), but Instagram growth is still possible and I can help point you in the right direction to build your online following for your art biz.

During the last three months of 2020, I focused my energy on Instagram again and gained roughly 6,000 new organic followers after a year of stagnation. I’m not going to tell you things I haven’t tested myself. I share what has worked for my own account, because that’s just my style. So, here we go!

1. Use new features.

When any social media app rolls out a new feature, they are going to prioritize its exposure. I know it is annoying to have to learn new app features when you are trying to run an art business. You’d prefer to focus your energy on your craft and not on the mechanics of how to create a reel or use polls and interactive features in stories. I get it. But this is where I am going to encourage you to have fun with social apps. (In hindsight, had I focused more attention on IGTV videos when that feature was released, I might have seen more growth. )

I don’t want social media to feel like a chore. Growth takes dedication and persistence, and enjoying the process makes it easier to stick to it. Play with new features and have fun.

2. Post frequently.

I recommend posting at least once a day, but up to three times a day if you have the content. Every day. Social media apps will favor accounts that pump out new content to keep people coming back. You’re feeding the social media monster. Keep it fat and happy so it can keep its users addicted (yes, even you.).

Feed posts (photos and videos) have a short engagement period. I notice they kind of run out of steam after 24 hours. IGTV videos last longer. Reels seem to last the longest for getting engagement after posting. Posting often will help engagement on your account snowball and bring in new followers. Which brings me to the next point:

3. MAKE VIDEOS!!!

I’ve said this SO many times in various blog posts, and all of my consulting sessions. Make videos. Make videos. Make videos. The content is more engaging that a static photo, it’s more likely to get shared by other accounts, and the Instagram monster likes them. Instagram has three video options right now. Use all three of them.

Reels- 30 second max

This is the newest Instagram feature and is basically TikTok. At first, I was like “This is dumb. I don’t want to do this.” And then I used the feature and gained thousands of followers. So–use reels.

You don’t need to do what everyone else does. Edit videos in ways that are fun for you. Try new things. Use music you like. Look at how other artists are using reels to get inspiration.

IGTV- 10 minute max

IGTV was favored when it came out, and this is a great feature to show longer videos. These videos still get good traction.

Feed Videos – 60 second max

If you use a feed video, this is an older feature and likely won’t have as much impact as IGTV and Reels, but they are still more engaging than static photos.

What should you record for videos?

Anything related to your brand and message as an artist. Your process, your life in your art studio, tips and advice for other creators. Time lapse, real-time process, small clips of a single brush stroke or pen line, close-ups of your work. Try anything. See what your followers like. Make it interesting and show your style and your personality. Be genuine. (Don’t do a choreographed dance if it’s not related to your art…please. I can’t wait until that trend dies.)

4. Start Conversations

This is social media. Things that start conversations do well. You can do this by writing engaging captions or creating interesting/relatable content. Get people talking and commenting on your posts. Ask questions, tell stories, connect with other humans.

5. Keep your account branded, cohesive, and attractive.

This is the most generic piece of advice I give, but it’s still one of the first things you should think about when managing your profile on any social media app. All of your posts should flow together. All of your content should feed into your brand and your style as an artist. The first nine photos of your feed should look polished and hook a potential new follower. Your photos and videos need to look good. I say this a lot, if your photo looks bad, your art will look bad.

Read: How to brand your Instagram account and 4 ways to create a branded and authentic style.

If you have no idea what your brand and style is, then I suggest checking out my consulting services and I can help you one-on-one.

***

Some of the points above reiterate things I’ve said in the past, but you might be new here, so it never hurts to review the tried and true tips. And with that, I’ll revisit the things that you can stop doing.

Do not waste your time or money on the following:
  1. Follows for follows.
  2. Likes for likes.
  3. Giveaways
  4. Commenting on other account’s posts to get their attention.
  5. Bots, paying for followers, paying for share accounts.
  6. Hashtags (I still encourage the use of tags in feed posts, but they don’t seem to do as much anymore in my personal experience. Use a couple of branded tags, location tags, or other niche tags. It doesn’t hurt to continue using them, but I don’t prioritize them anymore. Read: How to research tags.)

***

I have met a lot of great creators and people through Instagram. Have fun with it and focus on building a community around your art and your brand. If you have questions, I am more than happy to get you on my calendar.

My Consulting Services: Instagram Assessment and Branding Assessment

I don’t advertise this often outside of my blog, but I love working with other artists to help them improve their Instagram accounts and refine their brand and message. As of 1/28/2021, I offer a 90 minute Instagram Assessment or Branding Assessment sessions where you and I will look at your work and account. We go through everything you need to improve your online presence and kickstart your following. Or, if you just have a few questions, sign up for a 30 minute session!

You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: